Last week at the library I checked out a book called “Eating on the Wild Side, The Missing Link to Optimum Health” By Jo Robinson. I selected it because the fist page I opened up to talked about the history of apples and how humans, given all of the apple species on the planet to choose from choose the largest and the sweetest to grow in number, which also happens to be the least nutritious species. And how crab apples, which no one in the US eats are brimming with phytonutrients, sometimes as much as one hundred times as much. I was excited because my boyfriend has a crab apple tree and I can get them for free! Phytonutrients are good things that plants make to protect them from the environment and the sun. Our bodies can use phytonutreints to protect our own bodies from the sun, cancer and all kinds of other things too. Basically the premise of her book is that although fruits and vegetables can be good for you not all of them are created equally. Some are better for you than others, and it’s not always obvious where the nutrition lies. She did all kinds of research into the latest science and sums it up to help you make better choices about where to spend your food dollar. I’ve been reading it slowly because its very dense. Surprises include: that there is no point in eating broccoli that you buy at the store. It may have been nutritious when it was picked but after shipping little nutrition remains. Melons and apples are little more than sweet treats containing very little other than sugar and fiber. Other surprises are that while beet roots are very nutritious, even more nutritious are the leaves on top of the beet root. I had no idea that they were even edible, but not only are they edible they were why humans cultivated the plant in the first place. So when I spotted bunch beets (the name for beets with both the top and the bottoms attached) I could not resist bringing them home and giving them a try. Today I present a recipe for beet greens.
Fresh bunch beets
Fresh beet greens are brightly colored and not wilted. Cut them off from the roots as soon as you get home so the leaves don’t steal nutrition from the roots and reserve the beet roots for later use. They keep well in the refrigerator.
Cut the green leafy parts off of the red stems. Set aside for soup. I made the mistake of leaving the stems in, although pretty and edible the stems are chewy like celery and I would think they might be better in soups where they are blended in. Chop the remaining greens into two inch pieces, like you would for spinach.
Meanwhile heat up a pan with your cooking fat over med low heat. I used schmaltz and butter to good effect. When the fat is hot, toss the leaves in. When wilted remove from heat and place on plates. Drizzle with lemon juice and sprinkle with feta to complete.
I would say beet greens are more flavorful than spinach, but are less flavorful than kale. Heating them mellows much of their bitterness. That bitterness is of course part of their great nutrition but even cooked they will still contain more nutrition than most other vegetable’s you can buy at the grocery store.